In the Middle Ages, Spalding was a very wealthy town with its prosperity based on wool. Ascoughee Hall was built in the mid C15th by a wealthy wool merchant. With its central hall and two wings complete with a small tower it is one of the best survivors of a medieval merchant’s house in Britain. Built on the banks of the River Welland this would have been a very important site.
It was a private house with subsequent families altering and making it more comfortable. It was bought by the council in 1896 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, and is now the town museum as well as a popular wedding venue.
With limited time, I was more interested in the house than the museum exhibits and a surprising amount of the original house still survives including the stone vaulted undercroft viewed from above, through a window.
The central hall with its stone slab floor and pillars supporting a gallery which runs round all four sides, is pure Georgian. This is now the reception area. A staircase leads up to the first floor rooms. During the winter months, there are displays of family paintings on loan on the walls and I was asked not to include them in any photographs I took.
Doors lead into the two wings. One large room at the front on the right is a temporary display room and had an art display by a local artist when I visited. Behind this is kitchen with cast iron cooing range and a display of cooking utensils and crockery. Other rooms retain their C19th fireplaces and have small display cupboards covering the history of the area.
The large room on the ground floor of the other wing is used a wedding venue. Behind it is the Victorian library with massive mahogany bookcases and a display of stuffed birds and geological specimens so beloved by Victorian collectors. Beyond is the garden room with a plaster ceiling and a selection of gardening tools as well as information about the gardens.
Rooms on the upper floor have more displays of local history and there is a sitting area with books as well as a room which is hired out for meetings.
Part of one of the original medieval stairs with its brick ceiling survive although is no longer used. A glass panel in the ceiling displays some of the original timers of the roof. Three stained glass panels on the first floor contain pieces of glass dating from the C13th to the C18th. Don’t miss the tiny fragment with a hare and red squirrel.
The hall is surrounded by gardens (reviewed separately).
There is also a cafe although with early winter closing times, this was closed by the time I’d finished visiting the house and gardens.
Ascoughfee House is a short walk from the centre of Spalding and entry is free. It is definitely worth visiting if in the area – and do allow enough time to enjoy the exhibits as well as the house! The house has a lift to the first floor and there is a disabled toilet. There is some parking by the house, otherwise there is a pay and display carpark adjacent to it.